Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 511 – WCoZ Situation Report

511 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, and as of  21st of August 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 122 487 after 199 new cases all local cases, were recorded. The highest case tally was recorded in Manicaland with 40 cases. We note the general nature of the hotspot update which did not give hotspot specific data, but, reported on the general downward trend of new infections due to containment measures. We note that the Hospitalisation rate as of 15:00hrs on 20 August 2021 was 433 hospitalised cases: 59 new admissions, 129 asymptomatic cases, 239 mild-to-moderate cases, 52 severe cases and 18 cases in Intensive Care Units. (Providence and Avenues Clinic did not report). Active cases went down to 11 885. The total number of recoveries went up to 106 366 increasing by 882 recoveries. The recovery rate remains at 86%. A total of 29 912 people received their 1st dose of vaccine. The cumulative number of the 1st dose vaccinated now stands at 2 301 641. A total of 23 822 recipients received their second dose bringing the cumulative number of 2nd dose recipients to 1 450 981. The death toll went up to 4 236 after 16 new deaths were recorded.

We note and commend the vaccine stock presently in country which amounts to a notable 8 258 000 doses which together with already vaccinated persons are just under the 10 million persons fully vaccinated national target for herd immunity. We commend the efforts of the government for securing the vaccines and call upon the same to ensure internal vaccine equity in Zimbabwe. 

Critical Emerging Issues 

Availability of Blood and Blood Services 

We highlight the chronic and persistent need to ensure individuals and communities have access to safe and quality-assured blood and blood products in both normal and emergency situations. We remain concerned by consistent blood shortages in Zimbabwe which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Further, we continue to highlight the high costs of blood in Zimbabwe which, together with the high costs of health services, makes healthcare increasingly unaffordable. 

We call on more people to become life-savers by volunteering to donate blood regularly. We celebrate and thank individuals who donate blood and we encourage more people to start donating;

  • We call for Government to promote and provide quality donor care; 

Today is a call to action for Government and national blood transfusion services to invest in national blood services, provide adequate resources and put in place appropriate systems and infrastructure to increase the collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors. 

We further call Government to;

  • sustain the investments in provision and universal access to blood services for all systems, 
  • specifically ensure that the cost of blood is affordable to the generality to the Zimbabwean public, 
  • promote and implement appropriate clinical use of blood,
  • strengthen the provision for testing kits and blood bags for blood services in Zimbabwe negatively impacted by the COVID-19 Lockdown restrictions, 
  • strengthen the systems for the oversight and surveillance on the whole chain of blood transfusion and distribution of blood and blood products.

Outstanding issues

Funerals, Night vigils and Burials, Vaccinated Persons – driving infections at community level 

Despite funerals, including related activities such as vigils, burials and memorials having been long identified as high-risk social activities, there continues to persist a grave need to ensure adherence to guidelines and increased enforcement in real terms on this matter. Community reports continue to indicate a high level of attendance of funerals, night vigils and burials breaching the 30 person limits and failing to respect social distancing sanitization and mandatory mask-wearing mandates. 

We are concerned that vaccinated persons appear to consider that attending funerals, in breach of 30 person limits is now permissible as they are vaccinated. 

Where the deceased has passed on from COVID-19, and the caregivers have been vaccinated, there is a rising mistaken impression of COVID-19 immunity, created and fostered by being vaccinated. This erroneous belief is driving close family members to advise their funerals of their beloveds are exempt from COVID-19, as the rest of the household was vaccinated. These reports and trends indicate a grave lack of appreciation of the consequences of vaccination and the relation and applicability of COVID-19 controls to vaccinated persons and the dangerous implications of such limited understanding eroding infection control measures.  

We stress the fact that vaccination is increasingly being driven by a mandatory nature is creating real-time gaps in community behavioural practices which are critical to pivot if Zimbabwe is to remain ahead of the pandemic. We continue to reiterate that our networks report similar trends across urban, peri-urban and rural communities. 

Network reports from rural communities indicate a greater disregard of COVID-19 guidelines at funerals, night vigils and burial ceremonies and as such with the rollout of vaccination to rural communities, vaccinated persons are re-interpreting guidelines to mean that they are exempt from COVID-19 Control measures. Our reports indicate that rural-based community networks across the country continue to display failure to respect the 30 persons limit at funerals. We, therefore, reiterate that messages pertaining to COVID-19 regulation apply to all funerals, despite the deceased having passed from non-COVID-19 related conditions. 

  • We urge increased messaging for vaccinated persons to understand they can still pass infections to others who may or may not be vaccinated, further we call for increased messages on radio particularly on the effects of vaccination. 
  • We call for government to express directly in information messages that getting an injection is the actual vaccination itself there are no further steps to be taken or expected to occur. We call for a reprioritisation of the information blitz as the COVID-19 fatigue is negatively impacting on the capacity of communities to shift behaviour accordingly. 
  • We urge Government to shift gears in messaging on funerals. We call for direct mentioning of practical matters arising at funerals to guide behavioural changes.
  • We call for increased direct investment into the training and awareness-raising of traditional leaders at community levels directly (not only senior Chiefs) and to religious leaders in lead of community churches, specifically on infection control at funerals vigils and memorials. 
  • We continue to urge the deployment of community policing teams at community funerals to ensure communities are aware of heightened monitoring of funerals and support behavioural change interventions. 

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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